Bennington housing complex gets money for solar heaters

By:  Neal P. Goswami
Bennington Banner

BENNINGTON -- A local affordable housing apartment complex is among four in Vermont set to receive solar water heaters.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Green Jobs and New Economy Subcommittee, announced last week that the Applegate Apartments in Bennington is receiving part of a $500,000 earmark for the solar water heaters. Other apartment locations are in Barre, Brattleboro and Burlington.

"At a time when we are spending $350 billion a year importing oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries, it is important that the United States move away from foreign oil to energy independence," Sanders said. "Programs like this are a major step forward."

The grant money, awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy, will allow for solar equipment in 402 apartments at the four sites. About 1,000 Vermont residents will benefit from the project, which will provide half of their hot water from solar energy, Sanders said.

He said the solar project will significantly decrease energy costs because water heating is responsible for as much as 25 percent of an average U.S. household’s annual energy usage. It will also make cutting-edge renewable energy technology accessible to more Vermonters.

The $500,000 grant will be matched by $700,000 in additional public and private funds, according to Sanders. A Vermont company will install the hot water systems, "making the project an example of green jobs at work in our own backyard," Sanders said.

Sanders said the federal stimulus plan passed by Congress last year also offers eligible homeowners tax credits to buy and install solar hot water systems.